Prayers to St. Joseph set in motion release of prison inmate
March 17, 2021
Bart Zavaletta never doubted the intercessory power of his favorite saint.
The theology teacher at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School and member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, both in Omaha, is currently in formation to become a permanent deacon and regularly prays to St. Joseph for special needs.
One such concern was for his uncle, who was imprisoned in Texas for the past 30 years for three non-violent drug crimes during the late-1980s and early 1990s.
In 2019, Zavaletta had consulted with a former student working for Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer in Washington, D.C., concerning a law called the First Step Act that gives non-violent drug offenders with good behavior the opportunity for a shortened sentence and job training to help them re-enter society.
He suggested Zavaletta write a letter to President Donald Trump asking for help under this law.
“I said, ‘Oh come on, you might as well just tell me you can’t help,’” Zavaletta told him. “But I took it up with St. Joseph and I prayed.”
Using a prayer said to be 1,900 years old, and concluding with a litany of St. Joseph, Zaveletta prayed a novena, and was inspired to act.
So he wrote the letter.
“About a month later, my uncle calls me,” Zavaletta said. “He said, ‘Bart, I got called into the warden’s office and … the warden asked me to sign a release form because he got a request from the White House, and your name’s on it, requesting the release of my file.’”
“I said, ‘Oh my goodness, … my letter must have gotten through,’” Zavaletta said.
Then months went by, and in 2020 the coronavirus pandemic hit. Zavaletta heard nothing more about the matter.
“We didn’t hear anything until President Trump’s last day in office, this past January,” he said. “Ivanka Trump (the president’s daughter) called my aunt, my uncle’s sister,” with the good news.
So Zavaletta’s uncle was pardoned by the president and was released from prison on Jan. 21.
His uncle’s release takes on a special meaning for Zavaletta, having taken place during the Year of St. Joseph, strengthening his faith in the saint’s intercession even more.
“I believe St. Joseph heard my prayers on behalf of my uncle,” he said.
Now Zavaletta looks forward to another special date during the Year of St. Joseph – his ordination to the permanent diaconate on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker.
“I definitely see a special significance in being ordained on the feast of St. Joseph in the year of St. Joseph,” he said. “I want to consecrate my entire diaconal ministry to St. Joseph. I want to be a conduit for the graces our Lord desires to bestow on earth through his loving foster father.”